Crypto Payments Implicated in Alleged Bolton Assassination Plot, US DOJ Says

A member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard planned retribution against the former National Security Advisor, according to court documents.

AccessTimeIconAug 10, 2022 at 3:41 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 6:24 p.m. UTC

An alleged Iranian plot to murder former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton involved the promise of as much as $1.3 million in crypto payments, the Department of Justice said in a statement Wednesday.

Court documents unsealed Aug. 10 allege that Shahram Poursafi, a Tehran-based member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard offered as much as $300,000 to assassinate Bolton, and $1 million for a further, unspecified job, with the transfer apparently set to be made via digital currency.

According to those documents, Poursafi in late 2021 and early 2022 made contact with a U.S. intermediary via encrypted messaging and instructed the would-be assassin to open a crypto wallet, to which small payments were then made as proof of concept.

The move comes as authorities attempt to clamp down on the use of crypto to launder the proceeds of crime, using a controversial means of identifying payers known as the travel rule. Indeed, the U.S. Treasury Department earlier this week blocked access to Tornado Cash, arguing that the privacy-focused mixing service was linked to sanctions-busting and North Korean hackers.

Poursafi, who remains at large abroad, faces up to 25 years in jail and $500,000 in fines if convicted. A spokesperson for Poursafi could not be reached for comment.


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Jack Schickler

Jack Schickler was a CoinDesk reporter focused on crypto regulations, based in Brussels, Belgium. He doesn’t own any crypto.